The Cognizant Citizen: Animal Cruelty in India

Over the last couple of weeks, there has been a nationwide outrage regarding the incidents of animal cruelty that have come to light. Across all media platforms, people have come out in large numbers in support of animal rights, deeming the recent events as horrific and unjust. Several petitions and campaigns have been carried out in order to spread awareness about this pressing issue. These incidents displayed the worst of humanity, each incident being worse than the previous one.

Pregnant elephant dies after accidentally consuming firecrackers, Kerala

On May 27th, the story of a pregnant elephant dying after consuming firecrackers present within a pineapple caused outrage across every media platform. The elephant was found, days after she had ingested the firecrackers, with her head submerged in a river so that she could cool off her hurt mouth. Little could be done she ultimately died of drowning. This is one of many stories in which firecrackers are wrapped within fruits to keep wild animals away from farmland. More often than not, they cause severe pain and suffering to animals that they weren’t even intended for.

The shocking news is that this isn’t a one-off incident. On an average eighty elephants are killed every year. In the last 8 years, a total of six hundred and fifty-five elephants have been killed. The leading cause of these deaths is electrocution. Train accidents, poaching and poisoning, are also some of the most common causes for their deaths according to the environment ministry data. According to the Elephant census of 2017, there has been a 10% decrease in their numbers since 2012 across the country.

Cow hurt after biting crude bomb, Andhra Pradesh

In another incident occurring in the Chittoor district of Andhra Pradesh, a cow was severely injured after biting into a crude bomb. Once again, these bombs are used in order to ward off wild animals from the crop. The Sub-Inspector Lokesh Reddy told ANI that a group of cows were left to graze in the forest during which one of them accidentally bit off the bomb, the resultant blast caused severe damage to the cow’s jaw. However, in this case, the cow was immediately provided with medical attention and was subsequently shifted to Tirupati for further treatment.

Monkey hung from tree dies, Telangana
The latest story in a string of animal cruelty incidents is that of a monkey being beaten to death in Khammam, Telangana. The monkey had accidentally entered a house in search of food. Videos of the incident have emerged across social media. They show the helpless monkey being hung from a tree while 2 dogs are let loose on him and instigated to attack him. The monkey can be seen struggling to get itself free. After a while, a group of people approach the monkey with long sticks.

After each of these incidents, a case was registered either under the Wildlife Protection Act or the Prevention of Animal Cruelty Act and Explosives Act.

Reasons for such cases

Most of these incidents occur due to the conflict between man and animals. Human encroachment of wildlife habitat is one of the leading reasons for this. The past few years have seen an increase in the number of leopards spotted in and around human settlements. This is because leopards have a tendency to come around the edge of the forest areas in search of easy prey. Now that this land has been used to create human habilitation to counter the pressure of an ever-growing population, leopard spottings have significantly increased.

The Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act (PCA) was legislated in 1960 and it has never been amended since then. This means that the monetary fines imposed on crimes against animals remain the same. Under the PAC twenty-four thousand cases were reported between 2012 and 2016. Last year 50 stray dogs were poisoned to death in Andhra Pradesh’s Guntur. Their bodies were dumped in a pit at the outskirts of the village. It had come to light that the Panchayat secretary had asked the staff to catch and kill the stray dogs in the village in order to control their growing population. A case was registered under PCA for the same.

Traditionally, people have worshipped animals in India for centuries. But recent events put a serious question mark over the ability of human beings to make a decision which is ethically correct, with appropriate consideration for the lives of the animals around them. What’s worse is that more than a decade has passed since the Supreme Court had issued a directive to all state governments to set up an Animal Welfare Board, no state has done so. Today, either the board has yet not been formed and if formed it isn’t supported.

Austria, Hong Kong and the UK have the strictest Animal welfare laws, with Austria being regarded as one of the safest countries for animals. Under the Austrian Animal Welfare Act 2004, the wellbeing of all animals and humans is measured on the same scale. The fines in case of violation of the laws can be anywhere from $2,420 up to $18,160 in cases of extreme cruelty.

So to say, we have also had some success when it came to protecting the tiger population in India. Today, India is home to three thousand tigers, the number is up by a third of what it was 4 years ago, according to the latest tiger census. This was only possible because everyone came together to prevent the tiger population from remaining endangered. The protection and patrol around their habitat were increased, and welfare workers were provided with the required equipment to protest the tigers from being porched. Media organisations have taken initiatives in the form of donation drives such as NDTV’s ‘Save the Tigers’ campaign.

We, as responsible citizens, need to make conscious decisions in order to protect animals against unfair treatment. With a rise in barbaric incidents against helpless animals, it is not only our legal duty but also a moral one to prevent such incidents in the future. As Anthony Douglas Williams rightly said, “Not a single creature on earth has more or less right to be here.”

Written by Cynthia Maria Dsouza for MTTN

Featured image by Bhargabi Mukherjee for MTTN

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